08 May Kids Ask the Best Questions
From a Grade 5 & 6 class from Woodcrest School in Rifton New York
Has your boat ever capsized? Could it?
My boat, Seaburban, has never capsized. It could, but it would take an extremely big wave and those kinds of waves are firstly hardly ever around and secondly are easy to avoid has they only occur in extremely large storms.
Why did you choose the route that you did?
I chose the route I did because this is the route of the great explorers. Before the Panama Canal and the Suez Canal were built the only way around the world was south via the 5 great capes. Each of the capes are of real historical significance. I wanted to travel the same route as the great explores and pass under these great capes.
What is it like traveling around the world without an electric navigator?
Without electronic navigation aids, I spent a lot of time figuring out where I am. I need to use the same instruments and the same techniques and methods that the great explorers did. It is not hard, but it is work. It is very satisfying to know that you can find your way anywhere in the world with really simple tools and a few simple books and
It is also a wonderful way to connect with the experiences of those great explorers. it is not possible to create many of their experiences. We do not have the same clothes or food or both. But we can connect very deeply with their experiences figuring out where they were. And for them. Where they were was a very very big and important problem. Using the same techniques and methods helps me understand more deeply the challenges they faced.
Do you ever feel like giving up?
I have never felt like giving up. There are so many people pulling for me and genuinely and sincerely hoping that I return home safely. I would feel as if I would be letting each and every one of them down if I were to give up…
I also know that when conditions are bad, or I am feeling particularly down hearted, that things will change. The wind and weather will change. My moods and feelings will change. I can always look to the future and know that things will be different. And if they are going to be different, there is no reason to believe that they won’t be better.
What would you say is the most dangerous thing you have faced or will face on your journey?
The most dangerous thing that you face on a journey like this is an injury. You must be very very careful about not hurting yourself as there is simply no help available. And it would be very hard for someone to get to you in time if you were seriously injured. I am very careful about not about doing anything that could lead to injury.
The second most dangerous thing is falling off the boat. If you fall off the boat, there is no getting back on. And as the boat is setup to sail itself it will simply sail away leaving you in the wake. You must be absolutely certain that anything you do will not end up with you in the water!
No North American sailor has ever sailed around the world nonstop solo using only traditional tools like a sextant and magnetic compass to navigate with. I wanted to be the first. That was motivation at inspiration.
What inspired you to try to complete this voyage?
I was inspired by other more profound things as well. Like reaching out to children like you to help make them aware of how important are oceans and atmosphere are and then perhaps inspire them to seek careers in the ocean and atmospheric Sciences.
I also wanted people to realize that their own dreams can come true no matter how big or how small. I wanted people to think that if he can do that then I can do this!
What made you inspired to sail around the world?
This is an excellent question. And you might be surprised to know the answer. Brooke, what inspired me to sail around the world was you.
I had hoped to spark a question, or some interest, or perhaps some engagement in young people just like you. Your questions here have told me that I have reached done something of that. I believe that that one single spark might ignite something in you that leads to greatness. Each and everyone of you has it in you to be truly great!
Are you happy to be away during this time of Corona virus?
I am not really happy to be away during the corona virus pandemic. Being away during the pandemic means that I am away from my own family and those people that I love and truly care a great deal about. I cannot help them and I cannot be there for them whatever their needs might be.
Do you get lonely?
I do not get lonely. That might be a little bit surprising but there is a big difference between being alone and being lonely. Some of the most lonely people I have ever met have I have met in crowds and great gatherings.
I have lots of different ways to connect with people. And you might be surprised to know that the feelings and the connections you have for your family and friends and loved ones grow deeper and more profound when you are away for as long as I have been away.
There are times however that I wouldn’t mind some company! Usually at dinner time. Dinner time is normally the time that families gather, and I eat dinner alone every single day. At those times I wonder what my own family and friends are doing around the dinner table.
Were you scared when the storms hit?
To say that I am not scared are not frightened would not be true. There are times when the conditions are certainly frightening. Whenever that happens, I always focus on the one single problem ahead of me that must be solved. Sometimes that is as simple as getting your boots on. Or finding something to eat before you go outside. By focusing on that one problem and then the next and then the next and then the next you move forward and pretty soon you realize there is nothing to be afraid of.
It would be foolish to be in such a dangerous place without having some measure of respect for the weather and the elements. That measure of respect sometimes shows up as fear. In those instances, the fear you feel reminds you to be humble in the face of nature.
Lastly, it is only natural to be fearful or apprehensive about things like big storms with uncertain outcomes. Whenever that happens, I always try to stop worrying and start preparing. It is unproductive and debilitating to worry. To prepare is productive and proactive and will help you face whatever challenges coming your way with confidence knowing you have done all you can do.
Was this one of your dreams as a child?
As a child, learning to sail on a very small reservoir in the middle of the Canadian prairies, my dream had always been to sail around the world. My father was a sailor as was his father. They inspired me to dream of doing this. That dream I had as a child so many years ago never died. I hope the dreams that you have now come true as my own dreams have.
How many miles will your journey be in the end?
The trip will be about 28000 miles by the time I finished. Those are nautical miles. There is a difference between nautical miles and miles that you typically use on land. Nautical mile is just a little bit longer.
What kind of food do you mostly eat?
The food is very plain. There is no refrigeration on board and fresh vegetables and fruit simply would not last this long.
Mostly I eat dried nuts and fruit, and grains. I am eating oats quinoa, pasta, and rice. I also have a lot of canned food. Things like would cams of salmon, tuna, chicken, ham, peas, corn, beans etc. All kinds of canned foods.
I can also make bread. I like making bread. It is a real treat to have fresh, warm bread on the boat!
Do you catch fish to eat?
I have not caught any fish to eat. I do have fishing gear onboard and I will try to catch a fish when I get back in the Pacific.
One of the problems with fishing in the ocean is at the fish you catch are large. I am only by myself so it would be difficult to eat all the fish before some of it went bad. I would feel terrible about killing a fish and not eating it and letting it go to waste. So when I do go fishing I hope I catch a small one!
How does it feel to see land and not go there?
I have seen very little land since I have left. I saw a small Island off the coast of South America named Ildefenso Island and then East Falkland Island. But, if I were closer to land and I could see more land then I would be very curious about knowing the people that lived there and how they lived. I can’t tell you however that seeing land after having been away for so long is very very exciting.
What has been the most fun part of the journey?
The most fun part of the journey so far has been writing about my shipmate Sir Salty McSnooze. He always has something fun to say. And he’s always doing some crazy thing.
How does it feel to have a hurricane coming at you out on the ocean?
Knowing that some very bad weather is coming your way always makes me feel a little bit nervous and worried. The storms can be so severe and so large that they must always be respected. As soon as I know that bad weather is headed my way, I start preparing. I start working through my check list of things to do to make sure that I have done everything I can. Once I have done all that I can relax knowing that I have done everything possible to keep safe.
Are you ever bored, or did you bring things to occupy yourself?
I am never bored. I am never bored at home or anywhere else for that matter. I have lots of books to read but the work on the boat sailing 24/7 keeps me busy all the time. Not only must I sail but I must cook and clean and maintain and repair and check and recheck and navigate and watch the weather, etc.
How many ships have you seen sailing past?
I have seen no other sail boats.
I have only seen a very small handful of ships. The last ship I saw was the third week in January. I have not seen a single ship after that. And before January I saw only two others.
Since there is covid-19 I would stay out in the ocean longer if I was you, will you?
I will not stay out any longer than necessary even though covid 19 has swept over most of the planet.
How can you run the boat alone?
Running the boat all day everyday by yourself means that I have to be careful about how I manage my time and energy. There are also things that you simply cannot do because you are by yourself. For example I would like the boat to be going fast all the time. But I simply cannot be up all the time to manage and change and adjust the sails continuously during the day. So I have to strike a compromise between going fast and getting enough rest and making sure everything else gets done.
There are things that you must do carefully because you are by yourself. Reefing a sail at night or setting a spinnaker when the wind is up. Those are things that can’ be dangerous and you must be very careful and methodical about doing the dangerous jobs.
Did you ever have an encounter with a shark?
There are sharks in every ocean in the world except for the Arctic ocean. Although they are everywhere, I have not seen a single shark so far.
Can you tell us what your scariest adventure has been so far?
My scariest adventure so far has been mountain climbing. I am not great with heights so being very high on the side of a cliff with not very much to hang onto was pretty scary!
Do you ever get bored of sailing?
I never get bored of sailing. Every day is different. Every hour the wind is blowing is different than any other hour. Watching the sails do their work is magical. They are only simple cloth. But what that simple bit of cough can do is astounding. I tiny scrap of cloth can carry you completely around the world if you are patient and persistent enough to let it do its work.
Did you make your boat?
I did not make my boat! But I have done all the work on it my self, so I know it like the back of my hand. Which I suppose is a little bit like making it yourself.
How did you all your food and water in your boat?
Suburban is designed to carry lots of food and supplies for a very long time. I have two big water tanks that hold 120 US gallons of water. That is more than enough for one person for almost 10 months if you are careful and only use the water for drinking.
All the food fits into special compartments and lockers that are situated all throughout the boat.
Did you learn more about yourself?
This is a very good question! It is almost impossible not to learn something more about yourself when you have so much time to yourself. There is plenty of time to think about those things that are really important to you. To read the books that need to be read. And to think very carefully about your place in your community and in the world.
There is also time to think about those things that are greater than you. You have time to think and observe and soak in nature in all her glory. You have time to think about the grandest things you could possibly ever see. Like the stars and the galaxies above you.
There is also time to think about the divine. Those spiritual things that are important to every human being and are part of the human condition that binds us all together
How big is the Seaurban?
Seaburban is 45 feet long and 12 feet wide. The living space inside is about the size of a very very small studio apartment. No more than 200 square feet. Most bedrooms are bigger than all of the inside of Seaburban!
What has been the funniest part of the journey?
By far and away the the funnest part of the journey is looking at the stars in the evenings and at night. Sometimes the skies are so clear it seems you could reach up, grab a star and put it into your pocket. It is amazing and beautiful.
The next best thing would be the porpoises and whales that come to visit the boat. They are curious and intelligent creatures and love to play near the boat.
As soon as they realize that you are near, they come rushing over to say hello, play in the bow wave of the boat and show off by jumping and diving. If you watch long enough, you can begin to perceive the different personalities that each of them have. Like us, they come in all different sizes and flavors!
My little brother is named after Brendan the Navigator. Are there historical or legendary
seafarers who inspire you?
I am truly inspired by Captain James Cook. He is responsible for charting much of the Pacific including most of Polynesia and the British Columbia and Alaskan Coast lines. He was on extraordinary sailor and leader, but more importantly, he was one of the world’s finest navigators and map makers.
He drew maps for parts of Canada that were still in use up until 1950. And he drew those maps 250 years ago. That’s how good he was!
Do waves ever break over your boat?”
Waves have never broken over Seaburban. We have had lots.of waves break on the boat however. When that happens, we get a good thump and lots of spray everywhere but never any solid water on deck.
We are small enough to be more like a duck bobbing up and down in the waves. Larger ships that cannot rise to the waves as quickly as we can may experience waves breaking over their bows.
So far, what is the most beautiful ocean creature you have seen?
The most beautiful creatures I’ve encountered sailing anywhere are the Dolphins and porpoises. At first glance, they are plain without much if anything to tell one from the other.
But if you look closely and carefully, they are all unique. There are small, subtle differences in the nicks and marks on their bodies, the coloration and shape of the patches around their dorsal fins, and most importantly, their personalities.
When they are around the boat they love to play in the bow wave. Some will patiently wait their turn before they surf the wave. Some will show off by jumping and diving. Some will rush madly in and push to the head of the line. Some will only watch and others will only do it in pairs.
There behaviour and personalities are so very much like our own. As are the subtle differences that make each and every one utterly unique. In my mind, their individuality and playfulness make them most beautiful.
Have you had any major catastrophes since we wrote to you last?
I have been beyond lucky on this trip so far! I sure hope my luck holds! The only thing that I’ve not yet been able to fix is the broken halyard for the outer jib. This jib is my biggest working sail and halyard is the line that is used to raise and lower the sail. Not being able to use this sail means I will be travelling slower and therefore taking longer to get home.
Have you seen any cool fish species?
The coolest fish species by far are the flying fish. The name says it all! They travel in large schools and whenever the boat gets near a school, the entire lot of them burst from the sea like so many shards of glass. Once free of the surface, they use the wind and specially adapted find as wings to actually fly across the sea. It is spectacular to see, a true wonder, and very cool indeed!
Did you have other dreams that you wanted to do, or still want to do?
Yes! I have many dreams and ambitions that I would dearly love to come true. Perhaps the next adventure will be to follow in the footsteps of the great explorers who mapped much of Canada. Men like David Thompson, Henry Kelsey, and Alexander MacKenzie. This would mean walking and canoeing Canada from coast to coast using the same navigational techniques I am using now at sea.
Have you seen any whales? Were you scared or did you enjoy them? Were they bigger than your boat?
I have seen many whales. Mostly Gray and Humpback whales. They are nothing to be afraid of at all. They are docile, curious creatures and would never intentionally harm. They are big, however, and some of the bigger ones are indeed bigger than the boat.
Usually they are as interested in me as I am in them. Once they know the boat is near, they will often swim by, trailing Seaburban astern or following alongside until they’ve learned whatever it is they wished to discover about me.
How do you manage to be alone for so long?
This is an excellent question. It is also the hardest to answer as most people have feel they’ve never been alone for long. Yet each and every one of us is utterly alone all the time. Our thoughts are ours alone. We alone have them. The voice you hear inside your head is yours alone to hear. Your feelings, emotions, and spirit all live within you and you alone.
The nature of the conversation you are constantly having with yourself is so rich, so vast, and so filled with feeling that there simply aren’t words enough in any language to accurately relate that conversation to anyone else. We try of course but our attempts fall short. How many times have you said in complete frustration “You just don’t understand!”
The conversation you have and that I am talking about is the most important one you will ever have. Your dreams and greatest ambitions are borne there. You will discover your greatest joys there. You will learn of those things that are of the utmost importance to you there.
Being ‘alone’ allows you the luxury of having that conversation free of the distractions of everyday life. For me, it is not a burden to be alone, but a blessing and a privilege. Alone all the time is, of course, not healthy, but alone sometimes most certainly is.
A friend of mine sent me these quotes recently. They are from Rumi, a great 13th century Persian poet and scholar. I may help explain what I cannot:
“Keep silent, because the world of silence is a vast fullness.”
“Your heart knows the way. Run in that direction.”
Do other people contact you?
I have had people from Canada, the US, Australia, New Zealand, Great Britain, Ireland, Scotland, France, Holland, and Kenya reach out to me.
Does your boat ever spring a leak?
All boats have many small leaks that usually appear during gales and storms. It is then that the boat is working hardest and the hull and rigging move the most. These leaks are only drips and drops but they are often in annoying places. Your bunk for instance!
What was your favorite part of the voyage?
My favourite parts are the the moonlit nights when the stars, planets, and galaxies are on full display. Out here, without any artificial light to mask the heavens, it is a wondrous and awe-inspiring sight. It is as if you have walked into the biggest cosmic movie theatre on earth.
Did you ever think you weren’t going to make it?
Yes. Mechanical breakdowns are a constant plague on a trip this long. Some things I was worried I would not be able to repair or rehabilitate somehow. Without finding solutions to those problems, I would have had to end the trip somewhere along the way.
Now, if you’re referring to ‘making it’ as in dying then the answer is no. You might be interested to learn that studies done on survivors of extreme events have shown that the only real difference between those that ‘make it’ and those that don’t is that those that do simply believe they will. Those that don’t, don’t. I’ve always believed very strongly that I will.
During your voyage, did you ever regret starting it?
Never. The challenges that I must face and overcome are one of the reasons I am here. I sometimes doubt and second-guess. That is only natural given the complexities and utter dependence on one’s self. But I never regret. Regret revolves around the past and the past cannot be undone. The future is yet to be written so the only place you can possibly be is in the here and now. The here and now has no room for regret and I therefore am very careful about letting my mind wander into regrettable territory! (Sorry- couldn’t resist the play on words!)
From a Grade 5 & 6 class from a Rural School in NSW, Australia
Has COVID 19 affected your trip?
Covid 19 had not affected my trip whatsoever. I left October 26, 2019 from Victoria British Columbia Canada well before Covid 19 broke out. Since that time, I have been at sea and mostly 1000s of miles from land.
I expect to arrive back in Canada sometime around July 1st. Ironically, I expect to have to self-quarantine for 14 days upon arrival!
Are you able to go fishing, if so, have you caught anything?
I am able to fish! I brought along lures and line, but only a limited supply. The first time I tried to catch a fish, something big grabbed the lure and I lost it all. Since then, I’ve been saving the last lures and line for the trip back up the Pacific and home.
You may be surprised to learn that much of the open ocean is a desert. There are few fish to be caught, especially near the surface, as most of the nutrients and food larger fish need to survive are found closer to shore and the currents that are found there.
How do you get food and what do you eat?
All the food I need had to be put on board before I left Victoria. Ocean going sailboats like Seaburban are specially designed with storage compartments, lockers, and tanks for water and fuel built in everywhere. I could have put aboard food for more than a year if needed.
I am not a fussy eater so I am perfectly happy with a relatively plain diet. Usually it is oatmeal or granola for breakfast, tinned tuna, herring, or salmon for lunch, and pasta, rice or quinoa for dinner. Along with dinner, I will have tinned vegetables and perhaps tinned ham or chicken.
I snack all day long in dried fruits and nuts, granola bars, and chocolate. My favourite foods disappeared a long time ago! I should have brought along more chocolate and peanut butter!
I tried my best to figure accurately how much food I would need. I also added quite a large safety margin just in case the trip would take longer than expected. What I didn’t count on was how hungry I would be and how much food I would actually need to keep my energy up. I am eating almost twice as much as I planned just to maintain my energy levels and weight.
How many miles do you have to go till you get home?
I have just over 7.000 miles to go. That is roughly 1/3 of the way around the whole world measured along the equator! I have already sailed more than 20,000 miles and home is still a long way away!
What Islands will you pass on your way home?
I will pass through the Cook Islands in French Polynesia, then close by Kiribati Island, and eventually within sight of the Hawaiian Islands.
How do you stay safe from sun damage?
I am very careful about too much exposure to the sun. I simply cannot risk getting injured in any way and that includes sun burn or heat stroke. To prevent both, I wear long sleeved shirts when outside in the sun, a wide-brimmed hat, sunglasses, and sunburn lotion on any posed skin. If I don’t have to be outside and exposed, then I stay inside the cabin in the boat.
Drinking enough water or other fluids is a constant challenge for me. I have limited water on board and I am careful to ration it out to make sure it lasts. In the tropics where the sun is most damaging, I fill a water bottle with my daily ration of water so I know I’m getting enough but not too much.
Lastly, any work that has to be done outside in the sun, I try to do at a controlled reasonable pace to avoid heat stroke or dehydration.
Follow my tracks in real-time: